Belgian surgeons harvest organs after euthanasia

How often is this going on in Belgium and the Netherlands? Bioethics blogger Wesley Smith drew our attention to a conference report by Belgian transplant surgeons about organ procurement after euthanasia. As the doctors, from Antwerp University Hospital explained in the 2006 World Transplant Congress (in a section called “economics”), they killed a consenting 46-year-old woman with a neurological condition and took her liver, two kidneys and islets.

In a 2008 report, the doctors explained that three patients had been euthanased between 2005 and 2007:

Patients were between 43-50 y old, all suffering from a debilitating neurological disease, either after severe CVA or primary progressive multiple sclerosis. They were totally dependent on third parties for personal care and without quality of life. Written informed consent about the procedure, after extensive explanation, was given by the patient and their relatives.

At the time of writing the article, the doctors were enthusiastic about the potential for organ donation in countries where euthanasia is legal:

The potential in Belgium (and the Netherlands) could be substantial. According to the Federal Control and Evaluation Committee Euthanasia (Year Rapport 2006) the number patients with debilitating neurological disease that had their request for euthanasia granted was 22/235 (2003), 27/349 (2004) and 16/393 (2005).

The curious thing about this is how little publicity this has received, even though the Belgian doctors published their achievement in the world’s leading journal of transplant surgery. ~ Transplantation, July 15, 2006;  Transplantation July 27, 2008

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